Huntingdon claims turnaround in sales

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The Independent Online

Huntingdon Life Sciences, the vivisection group almost brought down by animal rights protestors, yesterday reported widening losses but revealed that sales were running at a four-year high.

Huntingdon Life Sciences, the vivisection group almost brought down by animal rights protestors, yesterday reported widening losses but revealed that sales were running at a four-year high.

The company, rescued from impending bankruptcy by an 11th hour financing agreement in January, said that the resolution of its funding had led to a turnaround in its fortunes, with orders up in the first-half of the year.

Yesterday, activists were again in action, descending on a meeting of some of Huntingdon's customers at the Chemical Industries Association in London, which had been called to discuss security worries stemming from animal rights protestors and international terrorism.

Brian Cass, Huntingdon's managing director, said: "Orders [in the first-half] were 12 per cent up on the preceding six months and, encouragingly, much of the growth was driven by the UK laboratories which were 23 per cent ahead."

Company sources said that it had lost out on business at the end of last year as clients were concerned not to place research contracts, which often last a year or more, with a laboratory that did not have long-term financing in place.

Andrew Baker, the chairman of Huntingdon, said: "These results ... reflect our steady recovery from the issues of Q4 [2000] and Q1 [2001]. At that time, we faced refinancing difficulties as a result of the ferocity of the animal rights campaign ... our results were were impacted accordingly."

The US bank Stephens of Little Rock, Arkansas, led a rescue financing deal in January which provided funding for the company for the next five years.

As a consequence of this, Huntingdon said, quarterly revenues for the second-quarter hit a four-year high of £16.9m, as confidence in the group's future returned.

However, losses ballooned to £6.3m for the half-year to 30 June, from £3.9m for the same period last year, as sales for the first-quarter of 2001 came in at a disappointing £15.5m.

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